NAT Anan and Mariam-1604386685297
Palestinian-American women Anan Helwih and Mariam AlSamadi have been living in the UAE for many years. Image Credit: Supplied

DUBAI: Supporting female-led businesses is a conscious decision many people around the world are taking in their journey towards women empowerment. For two young UAE residents, this was the motivating factor behind launching their initiative ‘Dxb Women’, where they shed light on businesses in the city that are founded by women.

Mariam AlSamadi, 26, and Anan Helwih, 23, are two Palestinian-Americans who have been in the UAE for many years. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they understood that many small businesses were struggling and they decided to do their part in supporting the ones they could, by focusing mainly on female-led enterprises.

“A year ago, we met on a Facebook group. We both had newborns of a similar age, so our friendship instantly blossomed,” said AlSamadi. “We knew we wanted to work on something together and during quarantine [movement restrictions], we started noticing how many businesses were going through a tough time. So we wanted to contribute in our way.”

Helwih added: “We came up with the ‘Dxb Women’ initiative where Mariam and I would visit and promote as many female-led businesses as we could.”

Through showcasing each businesses’ unique products or reviewing an overall service or experience, these two women aim to create a platform where their followers can easily come across businesses founded by women that they can support.

“Many people want to help, but they’re unsure where to start. That’s where we come in,” Helwih explains. “We find a lot of these businesses through groups on social media. We wanted to make that information accessible to more people and that’s why we chose Instagram.”

AlSamadi said: “Usually, once a week, on social media, we have people shout out their favourite businesses. It’s just a whole day where people can share and promote their own businesses or their favourite ones. It allows us to raise awareness about all the businesses out there, led by strong women that we should support.”

Supporting small businesses

The appeal of smaller businesses is what inspired Helwih and AlSamadi to launch their initiative. They share personal experience that each customer has while dealing with a smaller homegrown business, that not only aspires to offer great service, but often has unique products that may not be known.

Helwih said that supporting these businesses has helped enrich her experience in many stores. “I was purchasing some clothes at a store that had diverse sizes on offer for different body shapes. Many people experience a lot of emotional stress when purchasing clothes that don’t fit properly,” she explained. This female-led business in the UAE was not only offering a variety of sizes and products, but also provided a personalised service that Helwih said had never been experienced elsewhere before.

NAT Anan Helwih and Mariam AlSamadi-1604386689723
Anan Helwih with Mariam AlSamadi -- idea and initiative above everything else. Image Credit: Supplied

Women supporting women

These two women have encouraged other consumers in the UAE to try and consciously choose some smaller or female-led businesses to support. AlSamadi said: “It doesn’t have to be one hundred per cent of your daily purchases. Just do your research and find a product that you love that you can support in a female-led business. They’re everywhere and they’re all accessible.”

Read more

They also believe that supporting a business can also be through reposting on social media, word-of-mouth publicity or even through simply offering recommendations.

The Future of ‘Dxb Women’

“We have a PR and marketing background,” AlSamadi said. “We aspire to help businesses create their brand identity and grow further. We don’t want to create an overpriced marketing agency, instead we aim to provide support and guidance through our expertise. Collaborations and hosting workshops for small female-led businesses is where we hope our initiative will lead to so we can contribute to supporting women in the community,” she added.